In November, David Weinberger put up a blog post, Before Facebook, there was DeanSpace. It highlights a video of Zack Rosen, a founder of DeanSpace, talking about how DeanSpace came to be and what it was all about.
But before DeanSpace, there was Hack4Dean. I’ve recently been reading though some of the email archives of this group and wanted to note a few things. It’s interesting to reread some of this today in light of all that has gone on since 2003.
In one example, there was a discussion about Creative Commons licenses: One post suggested
My choice is to require all people who sign up using our code to concede all rights to their material to a Creative Commons share alike attribution
liscense. (or they we could give htem a couple other options for different
In this, we here precursors of discussions about who owns or should own content on social media sites. The DeanSpace idea stayed with each person owning the content and making it available for others to use via a Creative Commons license. As much as I like Creative Commons, I argued against the requirement, believing that each person should have as much say as possible over their own content. We were, after all, trying to reduce barriers to participation.
In a different post, Zephyr Teachout put the issue we needed to address in very simple terms:
there is a more basic role for
Deanster, and the reason for its urgency (w/the idea of experimenting
w/this functionality on top of it).
People can't find eachother.
Dean supporters in the same area can't find eachother.
Dean supporters w/the same interests can't find eachother.
We have, incredibly, a nationwide movement of people who happen to run
into eachother if they use the get local tools -- or show up wearing
buttons -- or are on a listserv. Imagine what it could be if I could
search for local people to ask them to join me?
Here we are twelve years later. We have Facebook and Twitter. We have presumed front runners for the 2016 Presidential election. Perhaps there are or soon will be autonomous emergent campaign organizations, but I’m not seeing them right now. To play off of old clichés, mostly what I see now are cat videos and assorted memes. We see polarization and people unfriending one another over discussions of racism and white privilege. About the only campaign I could see emerging from Facebook right now is Grumpy Cat for President.
Can we rekindle to DeanSpace fire? What would it take?
I remember Charlie. For a while back in junior high school, he was my best friend. We were an unlikely pair. I think his father was a sociology professor, or something like that at the college. Charlie was incredibly bright and didn’t have many friends. I lived on the outskirts of town and didn’t have many friends either. My father, also very bright, was an outcast conservative ideologue. He spoke disparagingly about Charlie’s dad, calling him a Marxist.
I learned about Marxism from Charlie, but more importantly, I learned the word “lampoon”. Charlie was a master at lampooning people. His comments were funny and thought provoking.
That was, of course, until the day he turned his lampoons against me. I was devastated. His words hit to the core, for he knew my faults and my frailties. It was the last time I spoke to him.
A few weeks later, he lampooned the junior high school’s track star, Mohammed. Mohammed was one of the few black kids in town and everyone loved him. He had an older brother that was always in trouble with the law. After one incident, Charlie turned his wit to Mohammed. Where I had just turned away broken hearted, Mohammed lashed back and beat the crap out of Charlie. Mohammed was expelled and Charlie was hospitalized.
Everyone felt sorry for Charlie as he recuperated in the hospital. They turned against Mohammed and the family ended up moving out of town. I felt sorry for both of them.
This year, I ran for State Representative again. People often ask if I won. I always reply, “I won. I didn’t get elected, but I won”. In response to their quizzical looks, I explain that I won by getting people more involved with local politics and what is going on in their communities. I won by talking about the issues.
There were people that encouraged me to go negative on my opponent. I might have had a better chance of getting elected, but I also would have more likely lost on the grander scale. People now ask if I plan to run again. It is too early to say at this point.
What I do plan to do is to continue working on getting more people involved with local politics and what is going on in their communities. This goal, and various issues, like health disparities, remain very important to me, so I’m staying involved for the long run. I’ve kicked around writing a book about running for office, and I’m still thinking about that, if I can find the time and energy.
Yet there is something that I try to do every day. On social media, I try to bend the conversation towards greater civility. Many of my friends, on both ends of the spectrum regularly post nasty stuff about our political leaders and then they wonder why we don’t get better candidates.
I was fortunate that I didn’t get much for nasty comments when I ran, at least that I know of. Perhaps the closest I got was being blocked by a woman who claimed to be a Christian, but repeatedly posted vile attacks on certain political leaders.
So, for 2015, I want to expand this. Please, stop and think before you post negative comments about politicians. Is your post going to improve political involvement in our country? Is it honoring everyone who has been created in God’s image? If not, maybe you should spend a little time in prayer, and find a different way to share your ideas.
“Do you hear the people sing?”
I glance at my Facebook feed
“so I wish I could say I'm numb. I cannot. Surprised? No... but in all kinds of pain.”
“I am at The Taking it to the Streets: Reviving the Black Church Conference. I am in the right place in light of the latest verdict. Yes!”
“There is a lot of unrest in the world. We should care about it.”
When I get home, Fiona is listening to music from Les Mis, which she will be singing in a school concert tomorrow.
“One day more!
Another day, another destiny.
This never-ending road to Calvary;
These men who seem to know my crime
Will surely come a second time.
One day more!”
I try to find words to make sense of it all. It is Advent and I wait expectantly for the coming of peace and justice. The words from Les Mis come back in focus.
“Tomorrow we'll discover
What our God in Heaven has in store!”
“We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing;”
Kim and Fiona are still sleeping. The dog is pawing at the door, wanting to go roll in the thin layer of snow and slush that turn to ice overnight. It is Thanksgiving morning, yet there is no hustle and bustle in the kitchen or scent of pies or roasting turkey in the air. There are no mints, grapes, or pieces of celery stuffed with cream cheese or peanut butter on the table.
I grew up in New England. My ancestors were early European settlers in Massachusetts. We all have days that define our culture, and for me, that day is Thanksgiving.
Part of the lore of Thanksgiving is the story of five kernels of corn. As a kid at our big white Congregational church at the center of a small New England college town, we would receive five kernels of corn before Thanksgiving as a reminder of the hardship our ancestors had faced when five kernels of corn was the daily ration to make it through a hard winter as those around we’re dying.
We would be reminded of the days we were the strangers in someone else’s land and despite battles with the local inhabitants, they also helped us, provided us food and taught us how to survive in this difficult land.
I glance outside at the thin layer of frozen slush and think of how things have changed. We are now the local inhabitants. Are we helping those now coming to this land? The furnace kicks on as I finish my bowl of oatmeal. Life is much easier these days, but it can still be harsh. I think of the car accidents I saw on the drive home yesterday. I think of the storm and car accident that took my mother.
“Beside us to guide us, our God with us joining,”
As the family sleeps, I read through messages on Facebook, friends wishing one another “Happy Thanksgiving”. Yet even in that, I see the grief behind the words, friends with cancer, friends who have lost loved ones. One friends posts pictures of pastries he is baking and I think of his grandson who died this year. Another friend ponders about driving to see her stepdad whose cancer has spread. She lost her son to cancer a few years ago and questions whether she will have the strength to be there.
“Over the river and through the woods”
Friends have made it through the snow to grandparents’ house where a Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving awaits them. Others have to work this evening and tomorrow. Yesterday, my priest posted, “Do I have to get all ‘annoying preacher’ on y'all, and tell you that it's blasphemy against anything holy or good to go shopping on Thanksgiving or Black Friday?”
Fiona wants to go shopping tomorrow, in part to pick out presents for the eleven year old girl whose family can’t afford gifts. The girl’s wish list is on a gingerbread man that Fiona picked up at church. We will bring our gifts to church, and try to keep a healthy focus on the gift giving.
“Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices,”
When I was a kid, we would gather around the old black and white seventeen inch television with rabbit ears antennas on top. We could only receive three channels and we’d switch between the three to see which gave us the best picture of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City. As a kid from a small New England town who had never been to a city of more than probably fifty thousand people, New York, with its parade was a place of fantasy, no more real than the places I read about in books of dragons and unicorns.
The first television show I ever saw was Underdog when we got the TV one Christmas. The giant Underdog balloon seemed no more real than the cartoon character we had seen.
As I grew older, those five kernels of corn took root, and I would slip out to church on Thanksgiving morning, going to the small Congregational church a couple miles away. It was a small group, a remnant, that still worshiped on Thanksgiving Day. Later, even that fell away, and I hit the slopes, skiing in the morning and building up a big appetite for the large meal.
“O may this bounteous God through all our life be near us,”
So here we are in 2014. The riots driven by racial tensions further exposed by the lack of an indictment in the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson Missouri have subsided, although there are reports of planned disruptions of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
“We are here. We are here for all of us.”
The words of Alicia Keys comes to mind as I try to tie it all together, as I think of discussions that are bound to come up over Thanksgiving tables.
“Cause right now it don't make sense”
After my mother-in-law's mother died on Labor Day weekend, no one really had the energy for putting together a big Thanksgiving Dinner at Kim’s parent’s house. So we will drive to a restaurant and have Thanksgiving dinner there. I figure Thanksgiving will be rough for a lot of people this year.
“Let's talk about our part. My heart touch your heart”
What is our part? I ran for State Representative this year. It was a lot of work. I didn’t get elected, but I did get a chance to talk with a lot of people about important issues. I spoke about health disparities, a topic people don’t seem to talk about. I talked about how a black woman in New Haven is two to three times more likely to lose her child in infancy that a white woman in New Haven.
“let's talk about living. Had enough of dying”
I quoted Alica Key’s on the campaign trail.
“Let's do more giving Do more forgiving”
Yet I always come back to my roots, to the pilgrim’s way and the struggles of my ancestors in New England. The rush of Christmas seems so far removed. I’ve become an Episcopalian since my early Congregationalist upbringing. I think more about Liturgy and the flow of the seasons. It is Thanksgiving. We are still in the season of Pentecost and will be until Sunday when Advent starts. I’m not ready for Christmas carols, but I will jump ahead just a little bit with an Advent Hymn.
“Come, Thou long expected Jesus Born to set Thy people free;”
This is what I want to be hearing this weekend, not advertisements for the biggest sales of the year. Yet there is still turkey to be eaten, there are still hymns of Thanksgiving to be sung. God has provided, in the wilderness, during the Thirty Years’ War (when Martin Rinkart wrote “Nun danket alle Gott”), at the first New England Thanksgiving, and today, as friends mourn the death of loved ones and our nation struggles with racial tension.
“For thus it was, is now, and shall be evermore."